Born on December 24, 1929, in Seminole, OK; died on April 5, 1997; married twice; three children.

One of just a few African-American country artists signed to major labels in the wake of Charley Pride's tremendous success in the 1970s, Stoney Edwards had a style distinct not only from Pride's but also from that of any other country performer of his time. John Morthland, who wrote the booklet notes for a compilation release that appeared after Edwards's death, described the artist's voice as a "grainy, stray-cat voice." Edwards wrote many of his own songs, whose lyrics reflected the hard life he led. He never topped the charts in the same way Pride did, but industry figures and music writers admired his work. The prominent American roots-music historian Peter Guralnick devoted an entire chapter of his pioneering essay collection Lost Highways to Edwards, pointing to "the weight of his compositions, the wealth of detail, the selectivity of his art."

Edwards was born December 24, 1929, near Seminole, Oklahoma. One of seven children born to parents he called Bub and Red, he was given the name Frenchy, after a local liquor bootlegger who stopped by to visit on the day he was born. Edwards's father was a farmer of African and Irish ancestry, and his mother was Native American. Although his mother was a music teacher, Edwards never learned to read either music or books. During his teenage years Edwards lived often with his father's brothers, who operated three illegal liquor stills in different Oklahoma towns.

The dangers of living outside the law were matched by those caused by Edwards's tri-racial heritage. "I was never really accepted by any race," Edwards told Guralnick. "Sometimes I wished I was black as a skillet or white as a damned sheet, but the way I am it's always been a motherf***er." Edwards grew up hearing country music on radio broadcasts, and he especially liked the Texas-flavored swing of bandleader Bob Wills. Moving from place to place, though, Edwards rarely had the chance to hear music of any kind, whether live or on records or radio. He made a guitar out of a bucket and a piece of wire when he was young, and at some point he began to fill the void by writing songs of his own. "I don't think they rhymed or anything," he told Guralnick. "They'd just be about a bug crawling through the sand, an ant maybe, some kind of foolishness."

In 1950, after his mother's death, and with federal liquor agents on his trail, Edwards moved to Oakland, California, and then north to the blue-collar suburb of Richmond. In the 1950s and 1960s he worked at a series of jobs: car wash attendant, maintenance man, machinist, construction worker, and crane and forklift operator at a shipyard. Edwards married his first wife, Rosemary, in 1954, and after some resistance she ended up encouraging him to pursue his love of music. He had no dreams of a star career, but he began singing in Northern California bars in off-hours. On one occasion, Guralnick reported, a patron yelled, "I'm stoned, and he probably is, too," giving Edwards a nickname that stuck.

A 1968 industrial accident ended his career as a laborer: he was trapped in a sealed tank and suffered blood poisoning as his oxygen ran out. Doctors wrote Edwards off as terminal, and he spent some time in a coma and months more in a disoriented state, refusing social security disability payments and coming close to being institutionalized. As he slowly recovered, Edwards began writing songs again and turned his attention to helping another sick man: Bob Wills, whose music Edwards had admired as a teenager, was ailing, and Edwards organized a benefit concert to help with his medical bills. Performing at the concert in 1970, Edwards got the attention of a local lawyer, Ray Sweeney, who followed country music and had connections at Capitol Records' Los Angeles headquarters.

Sweeney pushed Edwards as a potential successor to Pride, and within a few weeks Edwards was signed to Capitol. Backed by the then little-known Wills tribute band Asleep at the Wheel, he went into the studio. His first single, "A Two-Dollar Toy," was a sentimental number that he composed, referring to the hard times he had so recently gone through: the song's protagonist thinks about leaving his family, but stops after tripping over a child's toy in the doorway, being thus reminded of what he would lose. "A Two-Dollar Toy" was successful enough to make Edwards a steady member of Capitol's roster in the 1970s and to attract songwriting contributions from top writers.

Edwards cracked Billboard magazine's country top 20 twice, with "She's My Rock" in 1972 and "Mississippi You're on My Mind," written by top folk songwriter Jesse Winchester, in 1975. "She's My Rock" was later covered by country vocal virtuoso George Jones, who once invited Edwards on stage to sing it. Edwards paid tribute to two of his heroes, Hank Williams and Lefty Frizzell, in another hit, "Hank and Lefty Raised My Country Soul," but Frizzell responded with a racial epithet when Edwards met him in person.

The epithet in question played a role when Capitol released Edwards's "Blackbird" in 1975; although the song's message was one of racial pride ("Blackbird, hold your head high ..."), it included the phrase "just a couple of country niggers," and radio stations heeded calls that it be banned. Within a decade, the term would be used commonly enough among African-American hip-hop entertainers, but at the time the controversy was enough to put an end to Edwards's major-label career. In the late 1970s and early 1980s he recorded for the small JMI label owned by producer Cowboy Jack Clement, and the independent labels Boot and Musical America.

Edwards returned to his farm in Oklahoma, living with his second wife, June, and his three children. In 1984 he found his career slowed by another accident: he shot himself in the leg during a quick-draw contest, and the leg had to be amputated. By 1990 he was suffering from both diabetes and lung cancer. The cancer responded to treatment, however, and in 1991 Edwards returned to the studio and released the album Just for Old Times' Sake on England's Country Music People label. The all-star roster of backing musicians on the album, including ace Texas fiddler Johnny Gimble, former Texas Playboys vocalist Leon Rausch, and Asleep at the Wheel bandleader Ray Benson, testified to the high regard in which Edwards was held in the country music industry. Edwards developed stomach cancer in the 1990s, and died on April 5, 1997. By that time, younger country fans were beginning to rediscover his unique body of work, and the collection Poor Folks Stick Together: The Best of Stoney Edwards appeared on the Razor & Tie label the following year.

by James M. Manheim

Stoney Edwards's Career

Performed in bars in Richmond, CA, area, 1950s-1960s; organized benefit concert for bandleader Bob Wills, 1970; recorded for Capitol label, 1971-76; recorded for JMI and other small labels.

Famous Works

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Visitor Comments Add a comment…

over 4 years ago

Stoney was a great preformer. my favorite cd was his last one just for old time sake.

almost 5 years ago

While I was in the Army, stationed in Germany my parents sold their house in a little town in OK, Achille, & moved to another little town in OK, Bloomfield. Most folks just lump Bloomfield in with the town that has a post office in that area of Bryan County, Hendrix - but they are really two separate areas to folks from there. Anyway, I moved back to Bryan County in 1989 & lived with my parents on their farm in Bloomfield for a while (right next to where the Bloomfield Girls Academy was) & that is when I first had the opportunity to meet Stoney, Cindy & Lindsey Edwards. I am sort of disappointed that Cindy & Lindsey are not even mentioned in his biography - just his first 2 wives- because Cindy was there with him through all the sickness & pain Stoney underwent the last few years. It was Cindy & Lindsey that were there for him in the end & I know he loved them dearly! They would come over to the farm on weekends along with other neighbors & friends & Stoney would play & sing for us. One night after he had passed I was over visiting Cindy & she let me hear some of Stoney's recorded music that he didn't play for the general public & I laughed til I cried! He came up with some great lines & lyrics just goofing off & I love the songs he published too. I am sure the good Lord loves country music too &, along with my father & brother, is now reaping the benefits of Stoney's songs, music, & laughter. I wish the best for Cindy & Lindsey!

over 5 years ago

I met Stoney Edwards and his wife at a show in Germany. The band I was playing bass with opened for him. As I stepped backstage, I met him and his wife. While he was up singing, I told her how nice it was to see a wife on tour with her husband, and she said they'd been through a lot together and described to me how he'd been in a coma for 5 years, and she was the only one who still believed he would wake up and refused to unplug him. He finally did wake up, but I had the feeling she was making up for lost time and didn't want to let him out of her sight. They were a devoted couple, and both really nice people, and a breath of fresh air at an Army Club in the middle of Germany in about 1973. I also remember that Stoney had odd colored eyes for a person of color -- they were either blue or an odd green, like mine. I'm half Irish myself. It was a pleasure meeting them both.

almost 6 years ago

thanks for all the comments about my dad it would have made his day too bad the internet wasn't around back then. i have uploaded videos on youtube and I have more coming thks again kenny edwards (tucreed)

almost 6 years ago

I never knew him. But im so glad now to know more about him. I couldnt believe what a great artist he turned out to be. I recently discovered his music and i love it. Im only 23..but i cant stand all the new country that is out now. Should be more out there like his. I have his Best of album.

almost 6 years ago

I did not know Stoney personally but I was a big fan of his. Growing up in Hughes County Oklahoma in the 1950's and 60's I was impressed with anyone from Oklahoma who made it and to me Stoney made it. I purchased his albums and played them endlessly. Jeweldene Turner is still one of my favorite songs of his. Later on in the mid 1980's I met Stoney professionally and did not feel comfortable telling him I was a big fan and asking for an autograph. I did not want to embarrass him. I regret I did not speak to him.

almost 6 years ago

I was looking for one of his records and couldn't find it at the record store so I called him and he took the time to talk to me, and sent me the music I was looking for along with a 8 x 10 photo. What a great man to take his time and do that for me. I play his music to this day.

almost 6 years ago

Some good footage of Stoney in concert has recently been posted to YouTube - great to see him as well as hear him!

about 6 years ago

I use to work with his son Kenny does anyone know where he is at now I would like to contact him again and see how he is doing.

about 6 years ago

Stoney Edwards, his first wife and children visited in our home often in Choctaw, Okla. We enjoyed them so much. One day Stoney came in the den with his guitar and said he had written a new song--just wanted to know what we thought of it. It was "She's my Rock"!!! It was a wonderful song then--and brings tears to hear it now. I have wondered so much about his children and wish all good things for them.

over 6 years ago

Stoney was my brother in law. He was married to my sister Cindy. My oldest daughter Katie still talks about playing poker with her Uncle Stoney and Lindsey at the kitchen table in the country. Stoney was good, but you could tell when he had a card up his sleeve. The girls would laugh and laugh and then Stoney would sing for us. What a voice. What emotions........My husband is a book reader. He is currently reading a book by John Connelly titled The Reapers. Stoney Edwards is mentioned in the book. It was so moving to see his name there. I also miss him. I wish more people could have heard him sing later on in life. It was amazing to hear him and Lindsey sing together. She has her fathers talent.

over 6 years ago

stoney was a very good friend, we spent alot of time traveling around southern oklahoma and north texas. he would do benefeits for anyone who ask. alot of times BILL MAC would be there at STONEYS request. they were a team. once we were at is home with him his wife CINDY and his daughter LINDSY .it was my yougest daughter PAIGE and son JUSTIN, they took off walking in the woods and where gone for 3 hours lost. a big storm was moving in and all of us where walking and yelling. STONEY was on his tractor driving all over with his 357 handgun shooting in the air , thats how they found there way home, stoney was scared to death but tried not to show it he told them he would pull both ears off if they got out of sight and kinda laughed. he loved kids , he told me once he didnt give a damn what people thought of him because it was not any of his buisness anyway! STONEY was a outdoorsman he liked sitting on the porch looking at the woods and just picking around on his guitar . he lived in dallas before moving to hendrix ok. at that time i lived in grand prairie tex. when he lived in california i did too. funny that we met at a kwick check conveniance store in achille ok, we met in the parking lot and talked for a while. then we went on our way . the whole time i was listening to a stoney edwards tape not realizing . later we met again at the same place. we talked again and again till about two months later he was showing me some albums he recorded ,then it hit me wow this dude is the same dude on the tape i took him to my house so he would know where i lived and introduced him to my mom dad and my wife cathy.then was when every thing changed we all hit it off and we were friends forever, i looked up to him he was a very good person he and his wife and my family would gather in the large garage open the doors and we would have fun just jamming . we would throw parties in the back pasture and on main street, anywhere we could find a place . everyone was invited our little town would all gather and would enjoy it as long as it would last. stony got sick and that was it . my brother louie chambers of red oak texas and i where pallbeares at his funeral. i still visit him from time to time . there are so many stories they just dont end. his son kenny edwards of achille ok. and i are still best of friends he has good family. i wish that more people who knew him would write on this as well. and i wish those who did not know him could have . i will allways miss him,. lynn chambers achille ok.

over 6 years ago

great music im good friends with his drummer chuck rodgers

almost 7 years ago

STONEY EDWARDS WAS ONE OF THE GREATEST TRUE COUNTRY SINGERS THAT EVER LIVED.I DON'T UNDERSTAND WHY EVEN "CLASSIC" COUNTRY STATIONS WILL NOT PLAY HIS SONGS.HIS CONTRIBUTION TO COUNTRY MUSIC DESERVES TO BE ACKNOWLEDGED.I AM ASHAMED OF THE COUNTRY MUSIC INDUSTRY FOR IGNORING HIM AND ALL OF THE OTHER GIANTS FROM THE PAST.